Nothing signals the start of summer more than a delicious vine ripened tomato. I would venture to say that tomatoes bring out more passion in people than any other garden vegetable. A lot of time and effort goes into making a great tomato though. We put a black landscape fabric down on the ground to protect the tomato plants from soil splashing up on the leaves. Most diseases that affect tomato plants come from soil contact. We then stake and tie the plants with a system called the Florida weave. When it comes time to harvest we use shears to clip each tomato off the vine and place it in a bucket. If it’s cracked or bruised or sunscalded we toss it to the chickens. All tomatoes are then placed in a single layer in boxes, to avoid injury or bruising. We put all of this work into our tomatoes because we choose the tastiest varieties, not the highest yielding or most disease resistant. These varieties of tomatoes were not developed for shipping, excessive handling, or mechanical harvest.
When buying conventional tomatoes from a grocery store most likely they were grown vining on the ground which requires the use of fungicides. The whole plant is harvested with specialty equipment when most of the fruit is ready. The tomato varieties used have been selected to be able to pass through these harvesters and not get destroyed. Flavor is not really a consideration, high yields and durability are. All of these factors lead to the eventual price you see at market or in a grocery store. A hand selected, organically grown, heirloom tomato will have extraordinary flavor and should cost considerably more than what you find in a grocery store or even from a larger scale conventional farm operation. It is the added attention, care, and loss of sellable yield that needs to be recognized, when you are enjoying that high quality local tomato. This is why at Tomten Farm, we have a set tomato price, it does not fluctuate when the marketplace is flooded. It does not go up when we have tomatoes early or late in the season. These tomatoes are not commodities, they are one of our specialty crops.
Watch the video below if you’re interested in how large scale farms harvest their tomatoes.